Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. —Ephesians 4:28
We can usually identify what is important to the faith and vital to living a full life in Christ simply by recognizing what the devil either out and out opposes or seeks to pervert. Giving is one of those things. We see so much abuse in this area today, yet Paul here reminds us that we labor, not just to provide for our own needs, but also to meet the needs of others. The contrast of life realities drawn here is clear. The life of the thief is one of guilt, fear, and shame; the life of the repentant thief is one of labor, reward, and the joy of giving.
We have mentioned frequently the dry times in the life of every Christian and also the things we can do to either shorten their duration or end them altogether. One of those things is giving. Helping other people in even small ways can be such a rewarding experience. It just feels good! But there is another interesting aspect of the pairing of stealing and giving that Paul employs here. Laboring without giving can create the same sense of guilt as stealing, and it can certainly cause dry seasons or create a sense of something missing in a Christian’s life.
I often think of the life of John Wesley and what he left behind at his death. He died owning a set of six silver spoons given to him by his mother; six pence, one for each of his six pallbearers; and the worn-out frock he had used for preaching. He also left something else behind: hundreds of thousands of Bibles and the Methodist Church! He literally gave away all he labored to earn. I wonder if in heaven he now has any regrets. Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Can you imagine if we lived like we believed that? We might not leave much behind at our deaths, at least in the world’s estimation, but I am sure there would be untold numbers grateful for our choice, just like the millions that have been blessed by Wesley and the many others who chose to live that way. Don’t forget that your labors are in part to enable you to give to him who has need. Believe me, the words of Jesus can be trusted; you’ll be more blessed when you remember to give than when you forsake it and don’t!
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